COLD weather and weak consumer confidence have hit sales at DIY chain B&Q, leading to a slump in quarterly profits at its parent company Kingfisher.
The group said B&Q’s sales in the UK and Ireland dropped 5.7 per cent to £913 million in the three months to 4 May as the cold snap hammered demand for building products. Discounting by rivals also affected sales of bathroom products. However, sales at the group’s trade-focused Screwfix business grew 12.6 per cent to £155m as it benefited from the introduction of a mobile “click and collect” service.
Kingfisher’s sales in France, where it owns the Brico Depot and Castorama chains, were broadly flat at £1 billion, but the tough conditions in the UK and Ireland saw overall group profits plunge 28 per cent to £114m.
Chief executive Ian Cheshire said: “Market conditions have remained challenging in the first quarter, compounded by the effects of an early Easter and unseasonably cold weather across Europe. However, our performance towards the end of the quarter was encouraging following a return to more normal weather patterns.”
He added: “Looking ahead, we still have our key summer season to come and we are ready to capitalise on any improvement in conditions during this peak trading period. We will continue to focus hard on our margin and cost initiatives helping us to reinforce our value credentials with customers during these challenging times.”
Kate Calvert, retail analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, said underlying sales of DIY products in the UK have been in decline for the past decade, while B&Q’s stores were “too large, difficult to shop and not aligned to the new trend for convenience”.
John Ibbotson, director of retail consultant Retail Vision, said B&Q’s “disappointing” figures followed signs of a deterioration in trading at Topps Tiles, suggesting that the nation “has fallen out of love with DIY”.
He added: “To adapt to the new market, I expect B&Q to significantly improve its online offer, reduce the size of its stores and create a softer, more upmarket retail offer.”